Chess is defined by a small number of pieces, and rules for their movement around the board. But there are an infinite number of ways for an individual chess game to play out.
Language is like that. A language is a potentially infinite set of possible utterances. But any speaker of a language can instantly tell a whether a sentence ‘follows the rules’ or not, even if they have never heard it before–even if they don’t know all the words!
Linguistics is the scientific study of language–the search for the units, rules, and internal logic of a language, and of all human languages.
Dr. Terry Janzen, Dr. Erin Wilkinson, Dr. Kevin Russell
Terry Janzen, Erin Wilkinson and Kevin Russell are currently expanding our focus on American Sign Language (ASL), the primary language of Deaf communities in North America. While to date their work has been descriptive, it is certainly the case that Deaf people have encountered much discrimination and language suppression, that is, there have often been efforts to suppress the use of signed language, especially by deaf children in educational settings. The Deaf community in Winnipeg has voiced their desire to see this be acknowledged and documented, especially in conjunction with the arrival of the Human Rights Museum. Thus, Janzen, Wilkinson and Russell have begun to discuss what the role of the Department of Linguistics might be in these endeavours.
Nicole Rosen is an Associate Professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Language Interactions in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Rosen conducts advanced linguistic research on language interactions on the Canadian Prairies, including the influence of heritage and immigrant languages on official languages, and on the Michif language. Rosen is working to develop new methods for the visualization and dissemination of language variation and change, and will work with Métis youth and elders to co-create Michif resources to be used in documentation and revitalization efforts. Rosen’s research links language contact and quantitative and qualitative sociolinguistics, and is uniquely situated to inform language policy and praxis in a complex and urgent global context of multiculturalism and decolonization.